As superintendent, Lafon made district one of state’s best
63-year-old passed away on Monday
Dr. Rodney Lafon
Lafon, 63, served as superintendent of St. Charles Public Schools for 18 years before retiring last year. In addition to his position as superintendent, Lafon helped mold the lives of students through his jobs as assistant superintendent, principal at Des Allemands Elementary and Luling Elementary, and assistant principal at J.B. Martin Middle School.
In 1972, shortly after graduating from Loyola University, Lafon began his career in education as a music teacher at St. Bernard High School, but after one year he left to become a touring musician with Wayne Cochran and the C.C. Riders. After touring the world with the band for three years, Lafon ended up taking a job as a music teacher in St. Charles Parish in 1975 and thereafter began his rise to the top of the school system.
However, Lafon never stopped performing. Over the years he belonged to a number of bands, most notably spending 35 years as trumpeter and contractor for the horns section for Luther Kent and Trick Bag.
School Board member Clarence “Sonny” Savoie served with Lafon throughout his tenure as superintendent. He said that Lafon made a huge impact on the children of the parish.
“He touched the lives of countless students and all those who came in contact with him through his career. He was also as a tremendous leader of the band. He was the Pied Piper that could lead and inspire people to do what was thought impossible” he said. “The angels will now have a new trumpeter! God speed my friend and rest in peace!”
St. Charles Parish Sheriff Greg Champagne quickly bonded with Lafon when he was elected sheriff in 1996.
“Our common interest in music, jazz, and in particular playing the trumpet, made us more than just business friends. I was fortunate to play with a couple of the groups Rodney played with, Luther Kent as well as The Wise Guys. I even got to play at Jazz Fest on three occasions with Luther Kent,” he said.
Champagne said although Lafon and his wife Joyce never had children of their own, Lafon’s impact on the parish’s children was pronounced.
“He considered all the ‘kids’ in St. Charles Parish his children,” Champagne said. “This man was tirelessly dedicated to maintaining the highest level of excellence in our public school system. He was also fully committed to doing whatever it took to keep them safe. When it came to the task of education, he was all business.”
School Board President Jay Robichaux served with Lafon for 11 years. He said that the former superintendent was a prime example of a great leader.
“He lived for the school system and lived for education. He was a true champion for education,” he said. “He was a pinnacle of what a school leader should be and should reflect.”
Robichaux said St. Charles Parish Public Schools’ rise to one of the top school systems in the state was largely due to actions taken by Lafon during his time at the helm of the school district.
“The St. Charles Parish school system is tops in the state and has been for a number of years. I would challenge anybody to make a claim that (Lafon) was not the main reason the school is in the shape it is, both financially and academically,” he said. “I have more respect and admiration for Dr. Lafon than any other educator I’ve ever met for his leadership ability.”
Tommy Faucheux, southeast region state government affairs leader for Dow, worked in the communications department under Lafon at St. Charles Parish Public Schools.
“To see his passion up close was awesome. He loved the kids in the school system. They were his No. 1 priority,” Faucheux said.
After moving on to work for Dow, Faucheux said he got to know a different side of Lafon.
“My role here since I came to Dow was to really work with him on a lot of issues as far as getting our local students to enter the local workforce. One of the things our company recognized was Rodney’s passion to make these kids successful,” he said. “When these kids came out of high school, they were prepared.”
Faucheux said Lafon’s reach stretched out into all facets of St. Charles Parish.
“His ability to network and work within the community on all levels to reach the community as a whole, which of course focused on making his students successful, was like no on else,” he said. “There are many people working in this parish now in both government and the private sector that were influenced by Rodney.”
One of those Lafon influenced was Rochelle Cancienne-Touchard, who served under him as the schools’ director of public information. Cancienne-Touchard said Lafon was almost like a second father to her.
“(Monday) was a tremendous loss to St. Charles, the state and the country,” she said. “Rodney touched so many lives, so many kids’ lives.”
A memorial service will be held on Wednesday, May 21 from 4 to 8 p.m., with the program beginning at 5:30 p.m., at the Edward A. Dufresne Community Center at 274 Judge Edward Dufresne Parkway in Luling.
Lafon’s funeral will be held on Thursday, May 22 at Schoen Funeral Home, located at 3827 Canal St. in New Orleans. Visitation takes place from 2 p.m. until 6 p.m. The funeral service will be from 6 p.m. until 7 p.m.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be made to the St. Charles Parish Public Schools Foundation Dr. Rodney Lafon Performing Arts Center Fund. Checks should be made payable to St. Charles Parish Public Schools Foundation with a note in the memo referring to the Dr. Rodney Lafon Performing Arts Center Fund. Donations may be mailed to the SCPPS Foundation at PO Box 389, Luling, LA 70070.
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